February 28, 2006

Driving while 'dead'

A woman fakes her own death to avoid paying traffic tickets but her scam unraveled when she was stopped for another traffic violation, one month later.

So, instead of a $500 fine, she faces a five year prison term.

For driving while dead?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:14 PM | Permalink

Otis Chandler

From the LA Times, Patt Morrison on the death of Otis Chandler

Catching a glimpse of Otis Chandler striding through The Times' newsroom was like sighting a griffin: a creature of mythology, half-lion and half-eagle. In his person, Otis stitched together two ideas as dissonant as Valvoline and Sparkletts: a believer in that most-democratic of instruments, a free and fair press — the only business mentioned in the Constitution — and an heir to that most regressive of institutions, an absolute monarchy.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:17 PM | Permalink

Pre-death visions

The unseen realm or how science is making room for near-death experiences beyond this world.

Jennifer Hammargren was told by doctors that she had only six months to live. As a patient facing death, much of the knowledge she acquired preparing to be a hospital administrator seemed less important than preparing spiritually for her future.

Given what she calls a "reprieve," Hammargren not only didn't die, but she uses what she learned through the process of preparing for her own death to help those who are in the last stages of life. As a local chaplain for VistaCare hospice services, she's watched thousands of people make the transition from life to death.

She sees a definable pattern of behavior in patients who are dying, much of it involving a "life review" that includes making amends with family and friends and a process called "faith questioning." As patients examine their religious beliefs, or the lack of, they come to define what "spiritual" means for them — whether specific beliefs or simply the love of nature or laughter. Hammargren believes those personality traits are part of each person's spirituality.

Once patients come to a deeper spiritual understanding, they often begin to "see" people in the room whom they don't know, sometimes children who "visit" and may not speak. Some describe people they are not related to but who they think they may have known when they were young, she said. Others describe relatives they don't know personally but have heard stories about. Still others describe visits by favorite pets.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:11 PM | Permalink

Glimpse of the great transition

From Sunlight Follows Me, the Rites of Passage, a glimpse of the great transition.

"I'm not goin' yet. Don't you worry, I'm not goin' yet."

The morphine was bringing him very little relief, but he did not want any more.

"I want my mind to be clear for when the priest comes. I won't go until I've had my last rites."

The priest finally arrived in his dark robes and holding a small vial of holy water. His voice was deep and he when he spoke it was like a song, a lullaby that rose and fell, a haunting sound that felt alien in this land of green monitors and tinny mechanic blips.

As the song ended, the old man opened his silver eyes, looked around at us all and then sat up, smiling.

Then the breath left his lips like smoke blowing away in the wind, and the light faded slowly from his eyes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:08 PM | Permalink

Hope and sadness

What could be sadder than the sudden death of your young six year old daughter of bacterial menigitis?

Daniel Steinberg has started a new blog to share his thoughts of hope and sadness with his family, friends and the wider world. His pain will cause many more parents to cherish their children more deeply. Dear Elena

On unfinished business

Please don’t leave things unsaid that you need to say and consider not saying those things that don’t need saying. As miserable as I feel, I am comforted by having followed this advice with my children.

At the funeral

Maggie, that’s going to be a big problem for a while. There are people that won’t know what to say to you so they won’t say anything. They won’t look at me and you and mom. The death of a child - particularly this type of death - is very frightening to a parent. Some of them feel sorrow. Some of them feel guilt. Many of them feel afraid. Some fear that by meeting our gaze they will catch something they can’t overcome. It’s called deep sadness.
Our sadness is not for anything in the past....Our sadness is for the future where we won’t get to see Elena at things we anticipated.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

Students thank cadavers

First year medical students paid homage to those who had donated their bodies to science and education. Students thank cadavers for 'gift'

During the brief memorial service, humble observations and boundless gratitude spilled from students who'd learned much about the human body through six months of dissection.


Erica Moyer brushed away tears while she reflected on the sacrifice of the individual whose body was donated for her education.

"This was pretty intense for me. I'm pretty sensitive toward death anyway," the 24-year-old said. "I have a deep respect for these people that would do that."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

February 27, 2006

Don Knotts, Making People Laugh

On the passing of Don Knotts, Damian Penny says

Only a few performers have been able to give us one unforgettable TV character. Don Knotts, who passed away today at 81, gave us two of the all-time greats: Barney Fife and Ralph Furley. And that's on top of dozens of other film and television roles, over five decades.

Knotts probably made more people laugh than any other person in history. Not a bad legacy.


From the NY Times

Don Knotts was a high-status comic who played low-status roles. Actors who worked with him almost universally deferred to him as a comedic grandmaster, yet his characters were not jokers but the butts of jokes. He was absolutely flappable. No one had a better tremor or double-take, and with his unmistakable homeliness — bulging eyes, receding chin, stooped shoulders, broad hips — he didn't bother to play the wise fool; he wisely stuck to just the fool.
Mr. Knotts, over and over, was willing to play the desperate, pathetic low-man-on-every-pole. He did it so well — never forsaking his persona and trying to seize the lead, as nearly all major comedians do these days — that his talent for abasement became a source, paradoxically, of great authority. By revealing but never indulging these pretenses, he enlightened everyone he worked with, and his audiences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:58 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2006

Looted Corpses updated

Finally charges have been brought in the scam I wrote about in Rogue Funeral Homes and Looted Corpses

  Rest In Pieces
The New York Post reports the details of the body parts scam the Assistant Brooklyn Attorney called "nothing short of medical terrorism."

They harvested parts from 1077 bodies but only once obtained the OK from relatives.

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said, "What happened here is like something out of a cheap, horror movie. This case is unique in the utter disregard for human decency."


Detective Patricia O'Brien got the case and uncovered "a horror story that would shake the funeral industry to its core," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
I was shocked by the enormity of the operation," said O'Brien who was promoted to the Major Case Squad for her work.

Eventually, six bodies were exhumed and the detectives witnessed firsthand "the unspeakable desecration of the bodies," Kelly said.
Hynes said the photos prove that the defendants removed bone and replaced it with plastic pipe — normally used for plumbing — to conceal the theft.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 PM | Permalink

February 22, 2006

Mercy Killings in New Orleans?

After reviewing secret court documents, National Public Radio reports how the medical staff at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans discussed mercy killings.

[O]n the seventh floor of Memorial Medical Center, doctors and nurses were faced with few options. Conditions were deteriorating rapidly, evacuations were sporadic and security was compromised. Staff agonized whether to attempt to transport critically ill patients who might not survive the arduous evacuation. It appears another choice was considered: whether to end the lives of those who could not be moved. In the court documents reviewed by NPR, none of four key witnesses say they knew who made the decision to administer lethal doses of painkillers to the patients. But all four heard discussions that a decision had been made to end patients' lives. According to the documents, attorneys for LifeCare self-reported all of this to the Louisiana attorney general's office on Sept. 14, 2005.

No one has been charged in the investigation. And nowhere in the documents or in independent interviews conducted by NPR does anyone confirm seeing doctors or nurses administering lethal drugs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

Cardiologist on life after death

Cardiologist Dr.Pim van Lommel became convinced of the existence of life after death after hearing his patients' experiences. Life After Death

Dr Pim van Lommel was so inspired by the stories related by his patients of their Near Death Experiences (NDEs) that he became the first medical practitioner to risk his reputation with a full, systematic trial into the phenomenon.

He interviewed 344 heart patients at his hospital in Arnhem, Netherlands who had all clinically died, some for five minutes or longer, before being resuscitated. Of these, 62 — or 18 per cent — reported some ongoing experience after the medical monitors had pronounced them to be dead. Half were aware they were ‘dead’, and 15 had out-of-body experiences where they were aware of the actions of the hospital staff around the body.

He published his initial findings in 2001 in the British medical Journal the Lancet. Since then, he has devoted his time to further research on the phenomenon of NDE - near death experiences.

“Our waking consciousness, the consciousness we have during our daily activities, reduces all the information there is to a single truth that we experience as ‘reality’. During Near Death Experiences, however, people are not limited to their bodies or their waking consciousness, which means they experience many more realities,” he says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

February 21, 2006

Childhood in a Jar

A jar of childhood treasures for $1 at a garage sale by Mr. Jalopy. Childhood in a Jar.

  Childhood Treasures Skippy

This exquisite jar is the Navarro toolbox of blue sky dreaming. It is skinned knees and tiddlywinks from the post-war era of unlimited potential and knowing superiority. This jar houses the collected treasures of Mr. Frankie Bartoli of Chicago, Illinois and was sold to me by his family for $1. I bought it because the Smithsonian had not stopped at the garage sale prior to my arrival. But, like the Smithsonian would have, I took a photo of every single item inside.

More at his Compact Childhood Museum

Via Boing Boing.

There's something for your children. Before their 10th or 12th or 16th birthday, challenge them to fill a jar of their favorite things and you'll keep safe and return it to them, a message in jar from their child selves on some birthday in the future, say their 30th birthday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2006

Joan Didion on Grief

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

"The Year of Magical Thinking" (Joan Didion)

No one writes with more clarity about the country of grief than Joan Didion.

On magical thinking.

I was thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts or wishes had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome. In my case, this disordered thinking had been covert, noticed I think by no one else, hidden even from me, but it had also been, in retrospect, both urgent and constant.

How could he come back, she asks, if she gave away his organs, his shoes?

"Bring him back" had been through thoes months my hidden focus, a magic trick. By late summer I was beginning to see this clearly. "Seeing it clearly" did not yet allow me to give away the clothes he would need.

She explores attitudes towards grief, quoting first Philippe Aries who noted that about 1930 there was an revolution in accepted attitudes toward death. He wrote

Death, so omnipresent in the past that it was familiar, would be effaced, would disappear. It would become shameful and forbidden.

Then the English social anthropologist, Geoffrey Gorer who observed the contemporary trend "to treat mourning as morbid self-indulgence, and to give social admiration to the bereaved who hide their grief so fully that no one would guess anything had happened."

Thankfully, Didion had Emily Post whose 1922 etiquette book

turned out to be as acute in its apprehension of this other way of death, and as prescriptive in its treatment of grief, as anything else I read. I will not forget the instinctive wisdom of the friend who, every day for those first few weeks, brought me a quart container of scallion-and-ginger congee from Chinatown. Congee I could eat. Congee was all I could eat.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:57 PM | Permalink

February 17, 2006

Last words

People about to executed, hanged or shot are unusual in that they are aware that what they say will be their last words.

Jeanne d'Arc:
"Hold the cross high so I may see it through the flames!"

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, as she stepped on the toe of her executioner:
"Pardonnez-moi, monsieur." ("Forgive me, sir")

Nathan Hale, before being executed:
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Thomas de Mahay Favras, upon being handed his official death sentence as he was led to the scaffold during the Reign of Terror:
"I see that you have made three spelling mistakes"

Adolf Fischer, German anarchist, before his hanging:
"This is the happiest moment of my life."

Breaker Morant, on facing a firing squad:
"Shoot straight, you bastards! Don't make a mess of it!"

Robert Karl Hicks, executed by lethal injection in Georgia:
"Come get me."

James French, sentenced to death in the electric chair:
"How about this for a headline for tomorrow's paper? 'French Fries'."

George Appel, a gangster, about to be executed by electrocution:
"Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."

Gary Gilmore, executed by firing squad:
"Let's do it."

Jimmy Glass, murderer, while sitting in the Louisiana electric chair:
"I'd rather be fishing."

John Wayne Gacy: serial killer;
After being led into the death chamber, Gacy was asked if he had any last words, to which he replied:
"Yeah; Kiss my ass."

Thank Wikipedia for aggregating so many last words.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

Virtual autopsies

Well everything else is becoming virtual why not virtual autopsies?

Takes away religious objections and it's far cheaper too.

Better too, we'll be advancing medical knowledge and not burying answers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2006

When the pandemic comes

They say it's not a question of if but when.

In which case, a lot of people could die in a matter of weeks. Hospitals and funeral homes will be overwhelmed.
So what do you do with dead bodies?

This grisly topic is now being addressed by public health officials. Preparing for pandemic: know how to bury your dead.

"We talk about how people should bury their dead in their backyards, how far from the septic systems," said Dorothy Teeter, director of the King County public health department in Seattle. "In case you're wondering, it's $20 apiece for high-quality body bags. In New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) they had to double-bag bodies."

Refrigerated trucks will be needed to ship and store food and medicines and will not be available for corpses, a mistake made by federal authorities who commandeered trucks after Katrina, said James Caverly of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2006

Whoops, wrong corpse

It probably won't surprise you to learn that hospital employees may sometimes tip off funeral homes about the death of a patient and get a cash bonus for doing so.

But when the man you think is being buried calls you on the phone, the scheme begins to unravel.

Whoops, wrong corpse

A Serbian funeral director is facing legal action after organising the burial of a man who was still alive.

The mistake was noticed only as the coffin was being lowered into the ground, prompting angry scenes from relatives who had flown in from as far as America.

The Topalovic family from Novi Sad in Serbia rang relatives to inform them of the death of the head of their family, Bogoljub Topalovic, 84, who they were told had passed away in hospital.

But they realised a mistake had been made when Bogoljub rang his daughter on her mobile during the funeral service to ask why no-one had been to visit him for a few days.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 PM | Permalink

We bow in reverence

Members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry will save this letter till the day they die, a treasure of a Great Legacy

From Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette who first published this letter from the major of Tall'Afar, Iraq to the men and women of the 3rd ACR and their families.

In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.
God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land. Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:55 PM | Permalink

Different bells

They became so accustomed to the funeral home, they decided to get married there.

After all, both had been widowed and they met at a grief support group.

You never know when and where you'll meet that certain someone.

Going to the (funeral chapel)

They thought the funeral home would be the perfect place to marry.
“We kind of are disappointed that we’re not going to be attending the grief support group, but we’re not grieving anymore,” Judy said, grinning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 AM | Permalink

February 12, 2006

At least they had beer

They've peeked through a vertical shaft, but not entered, a newly-discovered tomb just 16 feet from the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

A Long-Buried Tomb is Opened in Egypt

"I believe the most important and interesting fact about this discovery is that it came after 80 years," said Dr. Salima Ikram, former professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

But they know that five mummies are there with beer on hand in sealed clay storage jars.

Who are they?

"It is an honor to be buried in the Valley of the Kings," Dr. Schaden said in a telephone interview from Luxor. "They could be relatives of the king, his brother-in-law, a gardener or a minor person in the palace given special honor by the king." He added that sarcophagi carried the names and all information about the person buried, but that so far the team had not been able to enter the burial chamber and could see only through a hole in the shaft.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:20 AM | Permalink

Ottoman princess dies

Princess Durruhsehvar of Berar

Her Imperial Highness Princess Dürrühsehvar, Princess of Berar, who died in London on Tuesday night aged 92, was a member of the Turkish royal house; after her family had been sent into exile, she married an Indian prince.

Beaton was impressed by her "sensational" looks, the "climate of restfulness and serenity" she created about her, as well as by her love for philosophy and literature, her proficiency in many languages and the "Ottoman perfection of her taste".

There was an occasion when she was lunching with a friend in Oxfordshire, at which Princess Margaret was also a guest. The weather was inclement, and both Princesses were invited to plant cedars of Lebanon. Princess Margaret eventually did so - reluctantly - while the Princess of Berar performed her duty with her customary quiet dignity.

Today Princess Margaret's tree struggles, while the Princess of Berar's thrives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2006

Hatched, matched and dispatched

They don't write obituaries like this in the US, More's the pity

From the London Telegraph.

HRH Prince Carol of Romania, who has died aged 86, spent much of his life in the quest to prove his legitimacy.

His paternity was never in doubt. He was the son of Crown Prince Carol of Romania (later King Carol II) and Jeanne Marie (Zizi) Lambrino, an aristocratic Romanian girl whom the future King had married in contravention of the rules of the Royal House.

Carol's birth caused grave problems. His father was the eldest son and heir of King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie (daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh - later Duke of Saxe-Coburg - and thus a granddaughter of Queen Victoria). The Crown Prince was handsome and intelligent, but not without an element of instability in his character. He was also highly sexed, some believing that he suffered from satyriasis. Anatomical descriptions, when overheard, were mistaken for descriptions of the Eiffel Tower.

HT to John Derbyshire whose mother called the birth, marriage and death notices in the paper, the "hatched, matched and dispatched."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 AM | Permalink

February 10, 2006


  St Bernadette

Incorruptibility is the quality of a body that does not decompose after death. A body cannot be incorruptible if it has undergone any embalming. Often, a sweet smell can be detected.

St Bernaette Soubrois was a shepherd girl in Lourdes, France, gathering firewood when she reported visions of "a lady". At the sight of the visions, a hard and dry place, a spring sprang up with water that had miraculous healing properties.

Now a famous pilgrimage site for the sick, Lourdes receives over a million visitors a year. While many thousands of miraculous cures have been claimed, only 66 have been confirmed after rigorous proof that the cure is inexplicable scientifically. Where scientists are looking for God.

Given the scientific rigour of the process, Jean Pierre Bely had to wait a decade before his sudden ability to walk during a mass at Lourdes, despite previously suffering from a debilitating disease, was officially sanctioned as not explainable by science. The toughness of this scientific peer-review process explains why only 66 Lourdes cases since 1862 have made it to official "miracle" status.

St. Bernadette died in 1879 and was canonized a saint in 1933.

Her body was exhumed in 1909 and fount incorruptilble. It was exhumed again in 1919, still incorruptible. In 1925 she was placed in a crystal coffin, in a chapel in the Church of St. Gildard at the covent of Nevers where she has been on view ever since, still incorruptible.

You can read the reports of the doctors and see more photos here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:07 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2006

More than 60 million dead

The bloody legacy of communism left 20 million dead in Stalin's USSR, not including the 4 million killed during the Second World War or the 10 million military killed during the same war. In China under Mao, some 40 million were killed. Source.

Only recently have memorials to those victims been planned in Washington, Berlin and Budapest writes John Fund in the Wall St Journal.

None though in Russia or China.

Some legacies are great because they are so horrific and reverberate down the ages.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 PM | Permalink

She deserved better

There are times in life - weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, and funerals -when we must rise to the occasion and behave so as not to cause embarrassment to invited guests.

For those of you who don't have a mother or never read Emily Post, you do not discuss or argue politics or religion at any event, especially in a house of worship, that marks an important life transition. One reason is to maintain a unity of attention and human connection to the person being celebrated or mourned. Eulogies are about the person in the casket, not about the speaker.

Appallingly, at Coretta Scott King's funeral, both Reverend Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter, took advantage to deliver partisan remarks that were completely inappropriate and calculated to deliver embarrassment.

What should have a dignified and solemn Salute Goodbye to a beautiful and gracious woman whose legacy and that of her husband's have enriched our entire country became instead a stage for political theater. It was an appalling lack of respect.

She deserved better.

UPDATE: Jasper in the comments says that President Bush's comments were the offensive ones. I thought it was a quite beautiful eulogy.

I will print them in their entirety so you can judge for yourself.

THE PRESIDENT: To the King Family, distinguished guests and fellow citizens. We gather in God's house, in God's presence, to honor God's servant, Coretta Scott King. Her journey was long, and only briefly with a hand to hold. But now she leans on everlasting arms. I've come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole.

Americans knew her husband only as a young man. We knew Mrs. King in all the seasons of her life -- and there was grace and beauty in every season. As a great movement of history took shape, her dignity was a daily rebuke to the pettiness and cruelty of segregation. When she wore a veil at 40 years old, her dignity revealed the deepest trust in God and His purposes. In decades of prominence, her dignity drew others to the unfinished work of justice. In all her years, Coretta Scott King showed that a person of conviction and strength could also be a beautiful soul. This kind and gentle woman became one of the most admired Americans of our time. She is rightly mourned, and she is deeply missed.

Some here today knew her as a girl, and saw something very special long before a young preacher proposed. She once said, "Before I was a King, I was a Scott." And the Scotts were strong, and righteous, and brave in the face of wrong. Coretta eventually took on the duties of a pastor's wife, and a calling that reached far beyond the doors of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

In that calling, Dr. King's family was subjected to vicious words, threatening calls in the night, and a bombing at their house. Coretta had every right to count the cost, and step back from the struggle. But she decided that her children needed more than a safe home -- they needed an America that upheld their equality, and wrote their rights into law. (Applause.) And because this young mother and father were not intimidated, millions of children they would never meet are now living in a better, more welcoming country. (Applause.)

In the critical hours of the civil rights movement, there were always men and women of conscience at the heart of the drama. They knew that old hatreds ran deep. They knew that nonviolence might be answered with violence. They knew that much established authority was against them. Yet they also knew that sheriffs and mayors and governors were not ultimately in control of events; that a greater authority was interested, and very much in charge. (Applause.)

The God of Moses was not neutral about their captivity. The God of Isaiah and the prophets was still impatient with injustice. And they knew that the Son of God would never leave them or forsake them.

But some had to leave before their time -- and Dr. King left behind a grieving widow and little children. Rarely has so much been asked of a pastor's wife, and rarely has so much been taken away. Years later, Mrs. King recalled, "I would wake up in the morning, have my cry, then go in to them. The children saw me going forward." Martin Luther King, Jr. had preached that unmerited suffering could have redemptive power.

Little did he know that this great truth would be proven in the life of the person he loved the most. Others could cause her sorrow, but no one could make her bitter. By going forward with a strong and forgiving heart, Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband's legacy, she built her own. (Applause.) Having loved a leader, she became a leader. And when she spoke, America listened closely, because her voice carried the wisdom and goodness of a life well lived.

In that life, Coretta Scott King knew danger. She knew injustice. She knew sudden and terrible grief. She also knew that her Redeemer lives. She trusted in the name above every name. And today we trust that our sister Coretta is on the other shore -- at peace, at rest, at home. (Applause.) May God bless you, and may God bless our country. (Applause.)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:37 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2006

Fallen Indian Warrior

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee

Corporal Brett Lundstrom, Ogala Sioux, a descendant of Chief Red Cloud, grew up in the wake of warriors. He became a Marine, volunteering twice and served both in Afghanistan and Iraq. He told his friend Philip Underwood once, "I will die for you."

On his last trip to Colorado, he told his young cousin, "Live life while you can." Only 22, Corporal Lundstrom was killed by small arms fire on January 7th in Fallujah.

Twelve marines in spotless uniform were part of the procession accompanying the body of Corporal Lundstrom, also known as Lone Eagle.

 Indian Warrior Procession

As they crossed the line to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the local disc jockey read words by songwriter Wil Numenka,

Throughout time, American Indians have had to defend themselves and their way of life,
American Indian warriors have a long tradition of protecting their families, tribe and nation . . .
By tradition, American Indian people have always embraced their warriors upon their return from battle,
Embraced them in heart, embraced them in spirit . . .
We mourn, but honor the warriors who have given of their lives in the field of battle. We embrace their spirit, for they are our very breath of life.
Great Spirit, we ask of you to receive our warriors."

 Indian Warrior Wake

The traditional honors for a fallen warrior included a 42 hour wake and lasted nearly five days. The Marines posted watch in 30-minute shifts.

 Indian Warrior Wake 2 Marine-1

Many of the mourners brought handmade gifts including star quilts, and according to custom, the family gave them all away, wrapping each Marine in one.

"Value doesn't mean nothing to the family - earthly property, it doesn't mean nothing right now - it's life that has worth," said 82-year-old Sylvester Bad Cob, a World War II and Korean War veteran. "They give it out now, but they'll get it back someday."

The highest honor for bravery is an eagle feather. An Indian Vietnam Veteran, John Around Him, said,

"He earns the American flag from his government. He earns the eagle feather from his people."

  Indian Wake 3 - Feather

I wept reading the story Wake for an Indian warrior in the Rocky Mountain News by Jim Sheeler and at the photographs by Todd Heisler.

Hat tip to Robin Burk at Winds of Change

With gratitude for your Great Legacy, RIP Lone Eagle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

February 6, 2006

Life Support - A Passalong

Someone sent me this a while ago. With the Superbowl just over, it seems timely

Life Support

A man and his wife were sitting in the living room and he said to her,

"Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

His wife got up, turned off the football game, unplugged the TV and threw out all of his beer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:01 PM | Permalink

Hailed as a martyr

For the first time, Iraqis make a martyr of dead British soldier

Men, women and children in the town where 22-year-old L/Cpl Allan Douglas was murdered on Monday have declared that the soldier should be honoured as a martyr because of the sacrifice he made.

It is understood to be the first time that any member of the coalition forces who has died during the war in Iraq has been hailed as a martyr

L/Cpl Douglas, who was serving with the 1st Bn The Highlanders, was patrolling through Al Amarah, in Maysan province, when he was shot dead by a sniper outside the town's police station.

Moments after the attack, Major Gen Abu Maythem, the province's police chief, declared that L/Cpl Douglas should be declared a martyr.

"This soldier died as a martyr trying to make Al Amarah safe for all Iraqis of all religions," he said. "We are all deeply shocked and sad."

Iraqi police have pledged to catch the killers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

February 3, 2006

Wendy Wasserstein

From an appreciation by Peter Marks, The Washington Post.

Feminism has never exactly been thought of as a laugh riot, but somehow Wendy Wasserstein managed to locate its funny bone. Not by mocking it -- she was an ardent believer -- but by making the intoxicating, bewildering choices it presented to women a natural ingredient of the human comedy.

From her earliest efforts, such as "Uncommon Women and Others," to the mid-career triumph of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Heidi Chronicles" to such later, sardonic plays as "An American Daughter" and "Third," Wasserstein made her central subjects the question of what women of her generation wanted and the less facile realities of what they got.

--In person she could be bubbly, ingratiating, resolutely unglamorous. She had a pudding face, she was rumpled, her hair was often a twisting thicket of unruly curls, and there was a magnetism in her wit and lack of vanity. City-born and -bred, she seemed a quintessential product of New York, always running with the "in" theater crowd:

Ed Siegel in the Boston Globe.

''Her great strength as a playwright was to see how sadness and pathos lived side by side with happier moments in life. She was brilliant at writing that down. She was not so 'Neil Simon' as people like to pretend. . . . She was much closer to Chekhov."

Charles Isherwood in the New York Times

"She was known for being a popular, funny playwright, but she was also a woman and a writer of deep conviction and political activism," Mr. Bishop said. "In Wendy's plays women saw themselves portrayed in a way they hadn't been onstage before — wittily, intelligently and seriously at the same time. We take that for granted now, but it was not the case 25 years ago. She was a real pioneer."
[From the Heidi Chronicles] Looking around at her materialistic, married, self-obsessed peers two decades after the exhilarating birth of feminism, Heidi observes: "We're all concerned, intelligent, good women. It's just that I feel stranded. And I thought the whole point was that we wouldn't feel stranded. I thought the point was that we were all in this together."
"No matter how lonely you get or how many birth announcements you receive," a character says in "Isn't It Romantic," "the trick is not to get frightened. There's nothing wrong with being alone." The popularity of her work speaks for her ability to salve a little of that feeling of aloneness in her audiences with her deeply felt portraits of women — and occasionally men — seeking solidarity in their individuality, finding comfort in the knowledge that everybody else is sometimes uncomfortable with the choices they've made, too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

Wahabbis destroy Muslim holy sites

Whoever would have thought that cartoons would get Muslims so upset? Clearly, they expect infidels to follow Islamic law in not showing any image of Mohammed.

Funny though, there's been no upset at the desecration and destruction of Muslim holy sites by Saudi Wahabbis which they appear to do with cheery abandon including the house where Mohammed was born

Mary Madigan has a photo.

Sadik Hasam at Muslim Wakeup writes this strain of Wahabbism which shuns all historical sites, especially grave sites. exploded in 1801 when they destroyed and defaced the tomb of Mohammed's grandson in Karbala, Irag and killed over 4000 people.

Later, in 1810, they even desecrated the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed himself, opening the grave and selling its valuable relics and jewels.

He has several photos of destroyed sites.

The destruction of holy sites continues to the present day.

"A telling example is the house where the Prophet Mohammed was born and [another] house he lived in until he was 29 are going to be demolished," Al-Ahmed said. Also destroyed was the 18th -century Ottoman-era Ajyad Fort. "They destroyed it at night. They blew up the hill where the fort was situated to make room for hotels," Al-Ahmed said.
Other reportedly destroyed sites cited by Al-Ahmed include: the first house in Islam, where the prophet Mohamed held secret meetings with his followers, which was destroyed in the 1980s; the houses of the prophet in Medina, where he lived for the last 10 years of his life; the Al-Fadik mosque in Medina built during Mohammed's life and destroyed in July 2003; and the Ali Al-Oraidi Mosque and Shrine in Medina destroyed in 2004. "It had been in operation for 1,200 years," said Al-Ahmed.
Behind the destruction is the Wahhabist strain of Islam, which seeks to destroy any revered physical structures that clerics believe could lead believers to idolatry, said Al-Ahmed. Real-estate development, especially around Mecca and Medina, which hosts millions of pilgrims every year, is also a major factor.

Religious politics also plays a role. When authorities allegedly destroyed one of the five renowned "Seven Mosques" built by the Prophet Mohammed's daughter and four of his "greatest Companions," Wahhabists were approving. "The mosques are not welcomed by Wahhabis," said Al-Ahmed. "It's partly political. They don't want Shia to go there to pray."
Al-Ahmed's Institute for Gulf Affairs is planning a report and a conference on the issue in the upcoming year. The report will contain commissioned photographs and details of the destruction.

"Throughout the centuries, Muslims had no problem preserving these sites; now, we have this new Islam that wants to destroy them. It is very sad and very disturbing," Al-Ahmed added.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

On reading obituarites

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

Clarence Darrow

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 AM | Permalink

February 2, 2006

On reading obituarites

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

Clarence Darrow

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 PM | Permalink

Where is the Panchen Lama?

The Panchen Lama, now 16, is the boy monk who is seen by the Tibetans as the religious leader to succeed the Dalai Lama.

  Panchen Lama

He's disappeared and the Chinese government who kidnapped him in 1995 shortly after he was recognized as the Panchan Lama won't comment or say anything about him. They won't even allow access by any international organization or human rights agency

It's tragic and a scandal says Quigley in Send the Panchen Lama to My House

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:42 PM | Permalink

The Wound We Keep Open

"The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal - every other affliction to forget: but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open - this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude."

Washington Irving

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2006

Coretta Scott King, R.I.P.

From the obituary of Peter Applebome in the New York Times.

She was studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1952 when she met a young graduate student in philosophy, who on their first date told her: "The four things that I look for in a wife are character, personality, intelligence and beauty. And you have them all." A year later she and Dr. King, then a young minister from a prominent Atlanta family, were married, beginning a remarkable partnership that ended with Dr. King's assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

And even before the wedding she made it clear she intended to remain her own woman. She stunned Dr. King's father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., who presided over the wedding, by demanding that she wanted the promise to obey her husband removed from the wedding vows. Reluctantly, he went along. After it was over, the bridegroom fell asleep in the car back to Atlanta while the new Mrs. King did the driving.
If picking up Dr. King's mantle, in the end, was something of an impossible task, both of them described a relationship that was truly a partnership. "I think on many points she educated me," Dr. King once said. And she never veered from the conviction, expressed throughout her life, that his dream was her's as well. "I didn't learn my commitment from Martin," she once told an interviewer. "We just converged at a certain time."

Hamil Harris and Fred Barbash in The Washington Post .

Universally known as the "first lady of the civil rights movement," King occupied a unique place in American society as the gentle and dignified heiress to the vast and fiery legacy left by her martyred husband.

Teresa Witz in the Washington Post

Hers was the weight of the widow, a woman for whom a legacy became a profession, a fierce drive to keep the past alive and yank it into the present, a constant vigilance lest others forget.
I look at her pictures and wonder how much happiness she knew. Even before her husband died, she was enduring: bombings of their Montgomery, Ala., home; the death threats; the FBI's exposure of her husband's infidelities. Then her husband was gunned down at a Tennessee motel, and her life abruptly shifted shape. She never married again.

From the NY Post

In preserving her husband's legacy, King established one of her own. She was more than a widow. She was a warrior, with stripes as hard-earned as anyone in the movement.

From the Boston Globe, Mark Feeney, Mother of a movement carried a legacy

The most famous image of Mrs. King is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken at her husband's funeral. She is dressed in black, a transparent veil and coronet-like hat. Sorrowful yet composed, she stares straight ahead as she holds Bernice, her youngest child, in her lap. In many ways, the photograph might be seen as a template for her public image through the remainder of her life, as an admired but distant icon.

A 1986 Washington Post article described Mrs. King as ''The Widow: eyebrows arched, her mouth in perpetual droop, her face alternately pained, aloof, beatific." As those capital letters suggest, it was as if she held a sort of nonelective public office. Her regal beauty and the slightly old-fashioned formality of her name underscored that sense. ''Coretta Scott King" seemed almost like a title.

From the President

Today our Nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken from her so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:29 PM | Permalink

The extraordinary ordinary

Scott Ott who maintains the very funny Scrappleface had to say "This is not satire" as he penned a tribute to his grandmother.

I am posting the entire tribute because we hear too little of the extraordinary ordinary American. They are great legacies, every one.

January 31, 2006

Jessica Rachel McMaster (née MacMenamin), the woman who coined the term ‘ScrappleFace’ as a nickname for a family dog, passed away late last night or early this morning.

Mrs. McMaster is the grandmother of ScrappleFace.com editor Scott Ott, and served as a mother to him and three brothers since the late 1960s.

Jessica McMaster gave up her career, surrendered much of her pension, and walked away from a comfortable lifestyle in a handsome apartment to move to an old house in the country and take care of four boys. Without her sacrifice, and that of her husband James McMaster, 84, these boys were candidates for foster care or an orphanage. Thanks to their love, these boys are now… an airline pilot, a university professor, a construction worker and a Christian children’s camp director (who happens to write satire).

James McMaster has devoted more than a decade to caring for his wife in their home as she moved through the stages of dementia. He kept his promise.

Both of them serve as inspiring role models to their boys, and to many others.

RIP Jessica Rachel McMaster and condolences to her family, especially her grandsons.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 AM | Permalink